table of contents
- Morris Deserves NFL Coach Of The Year Honors
- Bucs Will Benefit From All The Injuries In 2010
- 2010 Has Been A Year Of Growth For Bucs And Morris
- In The Lab: DT Frank Okam
- Pewter Prospect: G Rodney Hudson
- SR's Fab 5 - 12/22
- Season-Ending Dirty Dozen
- Buccaneers’ 2010 Christmas Wish List
- PR Conversation With Ronde Barber
- If Bucs Want Sellouts They Must Enhance The Stadium Experience
- Pewter Prospect: MLB Nate Irving
But even though the rebuilding Bucs have rebounded much quicker than most expected this season and have surprisingly put themselves into playoff contention, fans have not been motivated to spend the time and money to see Tampa Bay in person. The fact that the Bucs hosted the NFC-leading Atlanta Falcons in a huge game with playoff implications and only drew 53,955 fans to the game was surprising and had to disappoint the team.
It’s a safe bet that the Bucs’ season ticket base will grow next year with plenty of young players ascending to stardom, including quarterback Josh Freeman, running back LeGarrette Blount, wide receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn and defensive linemen Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. But the question is how many new season ticket holders will there be – 2,000, 5,000 or 10,000?
Whatever it is, the Bucs games will not be sold out next year through season tickets alone. Tampa Bay will still need a strong walk-up crowd and help from opposing fans just to get a sell out or two in 2011 – provided there is a season and not a work stoppage as the NFL owners and NFL Players Association continue to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
The problem with the extremely fickle, bandwagonesque Tampa Bay fan base is that over the past decade it has generally been split in two, based upon my observations. The first group of Bucs fans is the season ticket holders and the ones that would buy tickets to actually go to the games. Due to the economy, high ticket prices, the loss of legendary, marquee players and maybe some disdain for the Glazers sprinkled in, the size of this group has dwindled to just about 40,000.
The second group of Tampa Bay fans is everybody else who couldn’t afford or simply couldn’t get tickets to Bucs games at Raymond James Stadium, which has been sold out since 1998. Those fans have been conditioned to watch games on TV for over a decade. This segment of the fan base, which is much larger than those 65,000 that went to see the Bucs play in person, are used to sitting in air-conditioned homes in September when the heat index is 100 degrees, grabbing a much cheaper beer from the fridge rather than pay $9 for a beer at the stadium, and watching instant replays from televised broadcasts on 50-inch, high-definition flat screens.
Oh, and by the way, they avoid the $25 parking charge by keeping their car in the front drive way or the garage.
In order to achieve sellouts, the Bucs will have to market to the fans that were used to going to the games, but gave up their season tickets because they can’t afford it or they no longer see the value in going to the games. Given the economy, that will be tough.
And they will have to market to those fans that were conditioned to watching all 16 games each year at home on their high-definition TVs. That will be an even tougher task because these fans are used to not spending a lot of money on Bucs games they watch in their homes and they are surrounded by so many of their creature comforts, such as air conditioning and cheaper food and drinks.
In order to get as many fans in Raymond James Stadium as possible – whether it be through season ticket or individual games sales – the Buccaneers will have to think outside the box. Compared to other sports, the NFL is not exactly cutting edge when it comes to in-stadium entertainment, and that, coupled with the recession, has been a big reason why attendance has been down in some markets and there have been blackouts a plenty across the league this year.
Simply put, the Glazers are going to have to make going to a Bucs game at the stadium an even better event than fans can get at home with instant replays, expert analysis and instant injury updates from a televised broadcast.
And keep in mind that through various websites and torrents that blackout games are plenty accessible online. Thanks to technology, a simple hi-def cable can hook up a pirated web cast of the Bucs game to a big, 50-inch flat screen TV.
Outside of lowering ticket prices, here is a list of my suggestions that the Glazers should consider to make the in-stadium experience that fans pay between $70-$300 for even better than simply watching the game from home:
• Better stadium give-away items. Instead of lame player bobblehead dolls, Tampa Bay visors, and cheap, John McKay floppy hats – all with sponsors’ logos on them – the Bucs need to step up the premium items that they distribute to fans. Back when high-priced tickets cost $50 back in the 1990’s, the Bucs could get away with giving out a Tampa Bay poster that probably cost a dollar or two to produce along with the three-hour thrill of watching an NFL game.
It’s time for the Bucs to think a little more boldly. How about giving out a copy of the NFL Films 2010 Bucs highlight video to those who show up for the season opener. The retail value of those videos is typically around $15, so a lot of fans would be quite happy spending $70 for a ticket knowing that win or lose they will be walking away with something that has some real value, such as watching highlights of the Bucs’ 2010 breakout season.
Another giveaway item would be car flags, which used to be a regularly seen item around town during the Bucs’ heyday in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Now you rarely see them. Tampa Bay could help foster some visible, local Bucs pride by sending 50,000 – 65,000 car flags out in the area. And make the car flags feature a different design that is exclusive to that particular game’s give-away and not available in stores.
How about giving away $5 Subway gift cards or $10 iTunes gift cards at a game? In times of a recession, they would be more widely accepted by fans than a tired old bobblehead or a floppy hat.
The Bucs should explore a partnership with Busch Gardens, Sea World, Disney or Universal Orlando and include a free ticket to one of the theme parks for each Tampa Bay season ticket purchased. Pick the least attractive game on the schedule – perhaps a preseason game – and make the club seat or luxury suite holders show up to that game (and have to pay for parking, food and concessions) in order to claim their free theme park passes.
• Offer more chances to win stuff at the stadium. When Raymond James Stadium is at capacity the crowd is over 65,000. What if every game there was a myriad of give-aways and prizes just for showing up? The Bucs could randomly use the section, row and seat numbers to randomly give away scores of autographed jerseys and helmets at every game.
How about going to Raymond James Stadium knowing that you could get the chance to win a car on any given Sunday? As part of a Pewter Partnership, the Bucs could explore trading for vehicles that a local car dealer could give away. It could be the “lucky key that starts the car game” or even better yet have a field goal kicking contest or a passing skills contest determine who wins the vehicle.
The Bucs could set aside a luxury suite and give that away for the next home game to an upper level season ticket holder at the current week’s game. Or how about giving out a dozen VIP passes for tours of One Buc Place and watching an in-season practice at the team headquarters.
• Make the in-stadium experience more exciting. Outside of the occasional cheerleading performance or Ring of Honor ceremony, the Bucs’ halftime shows are lame. So are the pre-game video intros. Again, some outside the box thinking is desperately needed.
How about some exclusive pre-game show on the Jumbotron with in-game interviews on the sidelines that can only be seen and heard for those in the stadium? Why not give Raheem Morris the chance to address the 65,000 in attendance and get the crowd as fired up as he gets his team prior to the opening kickoff?
When the Bucs defense is on the field on third down and it needs to get loud, why not have a Tampa Bay sideline reporter give the microphone to linebacker Adam Hayward, who can get a little crazy, to get the Bucs fans extra pumped up?
When Ronde Barber picks off a pass and returns to the sideline, why not have him get on the microphone and tell the Bucs fans what he saw and how the play happened? Fans would eat that stuff up and fans at home watching on Fox wouldn’t get to feel the electricity of players and Morris firing up the crowd or getting some instantaneous X’s and O’s from the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay fans are notoriously late for kickoff because of the tailgating that goes on. The later the fans enter the stadium the more concession sales the Bucs are missing out on. Why not have some live pre-game interviews up on the Jumbotron as players are stretching?
Why not take the cameras into the locker room for Morris’ pre-game speech that could only be witnessed by those in attendance at the stadium? These are the exclusive elements that fans that watched the games from home wouldn’t get to experience.
The Bucs already do plenty of in-game interviews for the TV broadcasts during the preseason. Nix that practice and make them a regular staple of watching the games live at the stadium.
And do not put those interviews or in-stadium extras up on Buccaneers.com after the game. The Bucs and the NFL unfortunately do a brilliant job of cannibalizing their own live, stadium product with an overkill of highlights and replays on the team websites and NFL.com.
• Have a post-game or halftime concert for every home game. Who cares if Howie D. of the Backstreet Boys sings the National Anthem? Getting big names to sing the National Anthem is so 1990s. Why not get Ludacris, Rascal Flatts, Katy Perry, Stone Temple Pilots, Bret Michaels or Tears For Fears to do a 30-40-minute set after the game or a three-song set at halftime?
The Tampa Bay Rays and the Tampa Bay Lightning have both engaged in this practice to help with ticket sales. It’s time for the Bucs to get with the program and play catch-up. Besides, if there is a worthy artist coming on after the game that might prevent the thousands of lame Bucs fans from inexplicably leaving games early in the fourth quarter while the outcome of many games are still undecided.
Put the bigger artists on the games least likely to sell out to help boost attendance. To help entice a big-name artist without it costing a fortune, the Bucs should offer to host free merchandising for the event for the singer or band. That way Raymond James Stadium personnel could be in charge of selling the artist’s t-shirts, hats and CDs before, during and after the game to help pad their bottom line.
• Partner with local businesses to maximize the value of being a season ticket holder. Make season tickets worth something other than the privilege of just getting to see 10 games per year. That’s an arrogant attitude that most teams, including the Bucs, have towards their season ticket holders. What if a Bucs season ticket holder card was good for 10 percent off at dozens of restaurants and area merchants? All of a sudden the value of being a season ticket holder could be realized for more than just 10 days per year.
Tampa Bay season ticket holders could essentially earn back some of the money they have shelled out by saving 10 percent on oil changes at Jiffy Lube, on dinners at Outback Steak Houses, on groceries at Publix and on their Bright House cable bill, for example.
Want to sell more club seats and luxury suites? How about a smaller, exclusive FanFest-type of event where club seat season ticket holders and luxury suite owners get to come to Raymond James Stadium in the offseason for a special meet-and-greet and autograph event with Bucs players, coaches and general manager Mark Dominik. That way the higher-paying customers can either get double the autograph experience with FanFest or simply avoid the monumental crowds at FanFest with this exclusive event.
Yes, giving away cars, giving away better premium items or getting national acts to put on concerts costs a lot more money than the team is spending now on cheap give-aways, second-rate National Anthem acts and lame halftime performances. But what is the cost of having 20,000 empty seats and all of the missed revenue from parking, food, concessions and merchandise sales?
Having a winning team will temporarily get the bandwagon fans back to the stadium, but when the winning stops Raymond James Stadium will once again be 15,000-20,000 tickets shy of a sell out as they have been over the last two years. But if Bucs fans can justify spending over $1,000 on single tickets because the team has enhanced the in-game experience and offered more perks for season ticket holders Tampa Bay stands a much greater chance of keeping its season ticket base relatively high even in down years.
NFL teams like the Bucs need to get out of the 1990s mentality of thinking that just going to see live football games is good enough to justify the money and time commitment. In 2010, that’s not the case. Television has upped its broadcast experience with different camera angles, replays and in-depth sideline commentators like Tony Siragusa. It’s time for the Bucs to do the same thing with their stadium experience for their season ticket and individual game ticket holders – or get used to continuing to see entire sections of empty seats.